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However, the extent to which European imperialism was responsible for the outbreak of World War I is both an open and a controversial question.
After its victory in the Spanish-American War, the United States conquered a colonial empire of its own in East Asia (the Philippines), occupied Hawaii, and established an informal zone of influence in the Caribbean.
The enormous progress in communications (railways, trans-oceanic telegraph lines, steamships), the second industrial revolution (steel, electricity, energy, chemistry), and technical progress in weapon technologies (modern artillery, Maxim-guns or machine guns) had enabled Europeans and North Americans to occupy and control territories and states which were either unknown (the African interior) or even perceived to be culturally superior (like China) some decades before the First World War.
In most of the imperial powers (Britain, France, Germany, and Italy), elites with different backgrounds were convinced that only expanding countries with colonies or informal spheres of influence would be able to survive in the future.
It was taken for granted that hierarchies of civilizations existed, with the industrialized European countries and the United States at the top.
This article focuses on the extent to which imperialism contributed to the outbreak of the First World War.
The first part describes the emergence of specific imperialist cultures and attitudes in Europe.
In 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion in China all imperial competition was suspended.
Faced with an extra-European enemy the imperial powers united in an unprecedented fashion and dispatched an army that suppressed the rebellion.
However, the concept often had racist overtones, especially if non-white or non-European civilizations were competing with the European imperial powers.
This fact might explain the popularity of the concept: imperialists and nationalists from rather different political camps could agree on the need for expansion.